Termites in Palm Trees (Signs of Them + Treatment Options)


A few people have written to me after seeing termites in palm trees (Arecaceae) on or near their property. Seeing termites anywhere near your property can make you understandably nervous. We have a more general article about termites infesting trees here and you can learn about tree termites (most termite species can infest trees) here.

In this article, though, I’ll address some specific questions and concerns I’ve heard about termites in palm trees and stumps, including whether termites are attracted to palm trees, how to prevent termites from infesting palms, whether you need to worry about termites infested palm trees near your home, and how to get rid of termites in palm trees. Let me know if you have questions about anything I didn’t cover via my contact page or by leaving a comment.

About termites in palm trees

The first point of confusion is often about whether termites can live in or infest palm trees and if so how vulnerable palms are to termites. I’ll discuss this in this section.

Can termites live in palm trees?

Termite can and will eat palm trees. Termites can eat anything containing cellulose and palm roots, trunks, branches, and leaves are all composed of cellulose. Palm trees require significant moisture and so do subterranean and dampwood termites, so, unfortunately, subterranean termites often live in the same areas as palm trees. Subterranean termites start infesting palm trees near the roots, working their way through the bark via mud shelter tubes. Termites can make their way into the core of a palm tree too. Subterranean termites can seriously damage palms before most people notice their telltale mud tubes.

Are palm trees prone to termite infestations?

Most trees have some level of vulnerability to termites. Palm tree tend to grow in humid climates, the same climate that subterranean termites do well in. For this reason, one might say palm trees are prone a higher risk of subterranean termite infestations than trees that tend to grow in drier climates that only have drywood termites. But, there are desert termites that eat palms in dry, arid climates, so palm trees seem just as vulnerable to termite infesations as most trees.

Are all palm trees vulnerable to termites? Or are some more vulnerable than others?

Oil palm tree farmers in South East Asia lose up to 20% of their palm trees to subterranean termites. This may be more because they’re grown in peat moss (which provides the moisture subterranean termites need) and less from some inherent vulnerability in oil palm trees. Vulcan Termite & Pest Control Inc. notes that foxtail palms seem to be a favoite for Gulf Coast termites.

Parts of palm trees that termites attack

You now know that subterranean termites commonly infest palm trees. You may now wonder, what parts of palm trees do termites eat? Do termites only eat dead palm branches (fronds)? Are palm trunks safe from termites? What about the roots. In this section, we will discuss what parts of palm trees termites can affect.

Do termites eat palm tree roots?

Subterranean termites can eat plam tree roots. It’s feasibly for drywood or dampwood termites to eat exposed palm tree roots, but this would be unusual. Subterranean termites can discover living or dead palm tree roots under the soil, so it’s no suprise that subterranean termites are normally the type of termites that attack palm tree roots.

Video showing termites eating cabbage palm tree’s trunk and bark

Do termites eat palm tree bark?

Even though some palm tree bark is jagged and rough, it’s composed of cellulose. Since termites eat cellulose, they can and do eat palm bark but they tend to eat inner palm bark more than outer palm bark.

Subterranean termites eating inner palm bark.

Do termites eat palm branches (fronds)?

Termites can and do eat palm branches (aka fronds) because they’re made of cellulose—termites food. Since palm fronds are near the top of palms, termites reaching palm fronds means the palm tree is likely seriously infested (unless drywood termites found their way to the top of a dead palm tree).

Do termites eat palm tree leaves?

Termites can and do eat palm tree leaves because they’re made of celluose. Because of this, it’s good to dispose of fallen palm leaves on your property so they don’t attract termites to your property or trees.

Video showing termites eating dead palm leaves on the ground. This is why it’s important to promptly clean up fallen palm leaves.

Do termites eat palm tree stumps?

Termites will eat palm tree stumps. Stumps tend to decay quicker than standing dead trees and drywood, dampwood, and subterranean termites can eat dead, decaying palm stumps.

Do palm trees attract termites?

Palm trees can attract termites but so can anything with cellulose. If you regularly remove dead palm frond when they turn brown and don’t place mulch around the base of your palms, your palm trees shouldn’t attract termites anymore than other types of trees.

How can I deter termites from palm trees?

To prevent termites from eating a palm tree, ensure you promptly remove palm leaves and fronds that fall down. Trim dead fronds that are still attached to your palm. And, remove any mulch that you have near the base of your palm trunks. All of these are cellulose items and attract termites toward your palm trees.

Can I save a palm tree from termites?

If your palm tree is infested with termites, it’s likely the tree was already dying or dead. However, current research shows that invasive Asian subterranean termites (aka Formosan termites) can eat living palms too. One problem with palm trees is that they don’t have branches (just fronds/leaves), so you can’t just cut an infested branch off like you can with other types of trees.

Signs of termites in palm trees

You now know what termites can infest palm trees. But how can you know if there are termites eating at your palm beyond seeing them? Unfortunately, since it’s primarily subterranean termites that attack palm trees, they can do quite a bit of damage to palms before you notice. In this section, I’ll share some things you can look out for.

What are some signs of termites in palm trees?

Since subterranean termites are the primary termites that infest palm trees, the most common sign of termites in palm trees is termite mud tubes extending from the ground up the palm trunk (some can go quite high). If you see mud tubes or termites themselves on palm trees, you likely have a palm tree termite infestation. Another thing to look out for is if your palm starts looking unhealthy without any other signs of fungus or disease. If this happens, you might want a pest control professional to inspect your palm

How to get rid of termites in palm trees

If you find evidence of termite activity on or around your palm trees, your next step is figuring out how to exterminate the termites infesting your palm. The first step is correctly identifying which type of termite attacking your palm. You can more about determining different types of termites here, but generally, it’s subterranean termites that attack palm trees. If you have a tough time identifying the type of termite infesting your palm trees, either contact a pest control professional or snap a photo of the termites, mud tubes, discarded wings, or whatever evidence you see of them. You can send this into a university extension in your area and they’ll often help you identify the termites.

How to treat termites in palm trees

The first step in treating termites in palm trees is to remove anything you can that attracts them. This is often mulch around the base of the palm trunk, but can also be palm leaves, dead but attached palm fronds, as well as fallen palm leaves. Clean all those up. Then, assuming you dealing with subterranean termites, you can try to apply liquid termiticide around the base of your tree. Or you can try a termite bait system, which is designed to give the termites attacking your tree poisoned food they’ll take back to the termite colony.

Video showing how to install subterranean termite bait stations around a palm tree

Can Termidor be used on palm trees?

Termidor is not designed or labeled to be used on trees. It is only designed to be used around buildings/structures. But, some folks claim Termidor doesn’t harm trees and works for treating subterranean termites infesting palm trees.

After treating palm trees for termites, can they come back?

Termites can come back even after you’ve treated a palm tree for them. The typical palm tree termite treatment involves liquid termiticide poured into the soil around the tree or termite bait systems. Both of these treatments target subterranean termites quite well but even if you eradicate the subterranean termite colony currently attacking your tree, new subterranean termites can arrive later on. Liquid termiticide treatment lasts approximately 5 years when applied to a trench around a house, so expect around 5 years of protection for your palm tree. Termite bait systems need to be regularly monitored for termite activity and bait should be placed when termites are detected.

What if I need to cut down a palm tree with termites?

If you need to get rid of palm trees that are infested with termites you should go ahead and remove the palm stump too. Don’t leave the palm stump because doing can leave a subterranean termite colony food and protection to continue living in your yard or property. They might then spread to other palm trees or buildings.

Termites in palm tree stumps

Quite a few people have written me after seeing termites on a palm stump near or on their property. Seeing termites anywhere near their property makes people understandably nervous. In this section, I’ll address some common questions I’ve heard about termites in palm tree stumps, including whether termites are attracted to palm stumps, how to prevent termites from infesting palm stumps, whether you need to worry about termites in palm tree stumps near your home, and how to get rid of termites in palm stumps.

Do palm stumps attract termites?

Palm tree stumps can attract termites. Dampwood and subterranean termites are attracted to decaying wood. From the ground, they can discover an old palm stump and infest it. It is possible for them to move from a palm stump to your home, so removing the palm stump is a good idea if you find termites or signs of termites on a palm tree stump in your yard.

How to prevent termites in palm tree stumps

The most reliable method is to completely remove the palm stump, but some folks prefer keeping certain palm stumps for aesthetic purposes, as seats, or as memories of a beloved tree. Whatever the reason, if you don’t want to removor it, treat the top and sides of your palm stump with three or more coats of polyurethane wood sealant. This will not make your palm stump termite-proof, but it will deter termites. You could also apply termiticide around the stump or install termite bait stations, but doing so is quite a bit of work for a stump.

What to do about termites in a palm tree stump near your house

If you find termites in a palm stump near your house, call a pest control professional to get an inspection. It’s possible that termites migrate into your home from an infested palm tree stump near your house—particularly if they’re subterranean termites and palm tree termites tend to be subterranean termites. You should remove the palm stump, but that will not necessarily destroy a subterranean termite colony because they live in the ground under the palm stump, only using the stump for food.

Removing their food source would cause them to explore nearby for new food sources which may push them toward your home. This is why it’s best to have a pest control professional take a look and offer you some options.

How to treat a palm tree stump for termites

To exterminate termites in a tree stump you can use Dominion 2L insecticide. Drill some injection holes and pour Dominion 2L into the palm stump, letting it seep in. You can also dig a trench around the stump (though roots will make this difficult) and pour Dominion 2L into the trench to get to subterranean termite colonies in the soil near the palm stump.

An easier option is to simply remove the palm stump but before doing so, it’s a good idea to exterminate the termites, particularly if they’re subterranean termites, so they don’t spread to other trees or your house (assuming they haven’t already). If you know you have termites in a palm stump, it’s best to get a professional termite inspection to ensure termites didn’t make their way to your home.

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